Quantum Leap Episode 1- July 13, 1985 Review And Recap- A Blast From The Past Gets A Fun Update
Oh boy, fans of the beloved Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell soulful sci-fi can rejoice. Once more into the quantum entanglement, we go to right wrongs and search for a way to return home. The series, which initially ran from 1989 to 1993, showcased Bakula and Stockwell’s perfect chemistry. Bakula playing Dr. Sam Beckett and Stockwell as his friend, hologram helper, and only tie to his time, found themselves in one predicament after another as Sam tried to put “right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.” Quantum Leap Episode 1 was a lot of the things we hoped for from the reboot/sequel.
As much as things stay the same, others change. We aren’t following Sam and Al anymore, but their looming shadow is cast over everything. Time travel invented by Sam is still being researched, and Ziggy is still the supercomputer link between our time and the many places and times our newest leaper Ben Song(Raymond Lee), finds himself. Sam and Al’s memory and work colors everything about the new series, which works as a continuation rather than a reboot. Sam was never found, but the program has continued with a new team of charismatic creatives. Ben is a physicist who has lept into the past without telling his team, which includes his fiance. He lept for a mysterious reason which the series will explore along with the story of the week.
Quantum Leap Episode 1 introduces us to Ben and Addison(Caitlin Bassett), his fiance and holographic guide, who is a military analyst, and heir to the leaping throne before Ben usurped her position. Jenn Chou(Nanisa Lee), a cybersecurity specialist, Magic Williams, a consistently solid Ernie Hudson as the boss, and Sandman’s Mason Alexander Park as Ian, the computer wiz behind Ziggy and its improvements, round out the team. They are a likable and intriguing group, and the increased focus on the lab is a highlight of the series.
The new team and expanded focus on the lab could pay significant dividends down the road. Magic is a dependable leader with gravitas to spare. Ian, a nonbinary computer genius, has loads of quirky charm and rigid Jenn has the stark morality of someone who could be a compelling foil for this group. Even Ziggy, the AI from the original series, is back, although very little time is spent with it. Ziggy is sidelined right after Ben mysteriously leaps. What happened to the system and where the extra lines of code uploaded came from are parts of a higher tech mystery just waiting to unfold.
New television isn’t about simple pleasures. Puzzle box mysteries are a necessity to survive. The original formula of the problem of the week allowed a broad audience to dip in and out of the series without skipping a beat. At the same time, this new iteration mixes bits of the old with an updated sensibility. This time, Ben doesn’t just need to solve the weekly conundrum. Everyone needs to figure out why he leapt in the first place. Present in both Quantum Leaps is the ever-convenient memory loss preventing Ben from understanding why he did what he did.
There are a lot of pieces to like in the new series starting with our new time traveler. Ben is likable and capable in the same way that Bakula’s Sam Beckett was. However, Ben’s lack of memory when it comes to Addison is a situation ripe with emotional turmoil. The fact that she must now guide him makes a messy situation even messier. Bassett makes solid choices in Quantum Leap Episode 1 giving us a woman who is confused and in love but not weak or overly emotional. These more modern choices should serve the series well.
There is some of the same humor. Ben is a thinker, not a fighter, and yet he has to fight his way out of restraints and punch out a fellow thief. Addison is befuddled by this version of Ben partly because he is in danger but also because the idea that there were serious things she didn’t know about the man she loved is terrifying.
After a quick introduction to the main players and a cryptic text Ben is off and into the body of Nick Rounder in fabulous 1985. Nick turns out to be an undercover cop, and Ben is there to save a man named Ryan’s life. Ryan has gotten involved in a dangerous jewel heist because his wife is sick, and he needs the money for her treatment and to save his leveraged restaurant. The weekly plot is a little clunky but can be forgiven, considering how much needed to be packed into the pilot episode. A ticking clock and fun, angry tango keep the tension ratcheted.
By the end of Quantum Leap Episode 1, Ben saves Ryan’s life, but on his way to the next leap, Ziggy loses him. He is now on a spaceship with no Addison to assist him. Instead of the obligatory “Oh boy” from years past, there is a decidedly more pointed, “Oh sh*t.” A letter to Addison and tons of questions are left to be solved. The new characters feel real and share a bond that reads naturally. The formula of leap, rinse, and repeat has been updated with an eye to the future while still keeping the seeds of the past watered. We know next to nothing about what drove Ben to take this insane risk; for now, that’s the way I like it.
Has it really been thirty years since the final card read curiously misspelled, “Sam Becket never returned home”? Most lovers of the series were perplexed and irritated by the cavalier final episode, which left our boy Sam hanging. He, Al, and the series deserved better. NBC’s return to the story looks poised to be that better thing. New episodes air Mondays at 9:00 pm EST and stream on Peacock the next day.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.